Know Why Businesses Fail So Yours Does Not!

One of the most common reasons for businesses failing is failure to write a business plan. When an entrepreneur fails to plan, the chances are good that even growth can lead to serious business problems. How can growth lead to problems? It’s not growth per se. It’s when growth is too rapid and the business is unable to meet demand that causes small business failure.

Business growth must be managed. You can accept a half million dollars of customer orders, but if you can’t meet the demand in production or delivery the business will quickly get a bad reputation when unable to deliver goods and services as promised. Growth should be carefully planned so that resources are always available.

The business plan can help company owners and management avoid the most common reasons for business failure. In fact, knowing the reasons and then addressing them one by one in relation to your own business can help you avoid the pitfalls a new business typically faces.

Top of the list of reasons for business failure is lack of experience. The business plan includes a section on business management for a very good reason. Investors will want to know if the management is qualified and experienced. Even if you aren’t looking for an investor, it’s still important to identify the skills and competencies of key personnel. If gap exists, you’ll know it’s necessary to bring other talent onboard.

Lack of capital is another reason for business failure. The financial analysis needs to address money needed now and for planned growth. The keyword is ‘planned’ because unplanned growth can cause inventory, cash and personnel shortages.

That brings us to one of the most important advantages of a business plan. The elements of a business plan are integrated. For example, investing too heavily in assets can lead to a cash shortage which leads to poor customer service and lack of operating funds. Lack of management experience can lead to poor decisions that lead to marketing mistakes. The integrated nature of the business plan is precisely what makes it so valuable as a planning tool. No one starts a business expecting it to fail. Knowing why businesses fail can help you avoid a business failure. Plan to succeed in the business plan.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Preplanning the Business Plan

The Small Business Administration contracted with William B. Garner, a Spiro Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership at Clemson University and Jianwen Liao, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology to study pre-venture planning and entrepreneurs. Published February 2009 by the SBA Office of Advocacy, the article titled Are Planners Doers? Pre-Venture Planning and the Start-Up Behaviors of Entrepreneurs reports some interesting findings that all entrepreneurs should know.

First, the professors reported that, indeed, “…early formal planners are doers. We believe that challenging prospective entrepreneurs to accomplish a formal business plan early in the venture creation process will likely enable them to engage in additional start-up behavior that could further the process of business creation.” In other words, the business plan is informative and motivating.

The reasons given in the report for the importance of business planning include:

  • Entrepreneur can identify what he or she doesn’t know
  • Early identification of needed resources and when they will be needed
  • Identification of specific problem solving actions
  • Identification of actions needed to attain goals
  • Ability to communicate objectives, purposes and activities to others
  • Assessment of accuracy of business assumptions concerning resources, knowledge level, potential customers and beliefs
  • Reduction in organizational delays
  • Reduction in delays in acquiring plant and equipment, and goods and services
  • Keeps entrepreneurs on track
  • Provides benchmarks

In fact, studies show that even the presence of planning benefits entrepreneurial success. Presence refers to the whether a business plan is completed, while formality refers to a documented business plan. A written formal business plan was found to significantly influence a positive business start.

A lot is written about the benefits of writing a business plan in general terms. It’s good to know that studies of specific companies backs up the generalities. A business plan is a tool for success any way you look at it.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Keeping the Business Plan Focused on Purpose

Business plans are used for many purposes, and that purpose can influence what is emphasized in the plan.  Every business plan has sections that include the executive summary, business description, marketing plan, competitive analysis, development plan, management and operations plan, and financial statements and plan. It’s what goes into each section that must specifically address the purpose of the plan.

Business plans are as important for startup companies as they are for the large corporation ready to expand. Small and medium-sized companies, as well as the corporate giants develop business plans because they provide benchmarks for measuring progress. That’s one of the purposes then for developing a business plan – measuring actual results against strategic goals. Each section will establish periodic goals like number of marketing campaigns to run in a year, sales growth projections and net profit goals.

Another reason for preparing a business plan is to raise money. In that case, you will need to develop a well honed mission, clear objectives and goals and an executive summary that explains the type of business being started, the amount of capital needed and the type of financing. In addition, the marketing and financial plans need to be crafted so that they make sense in terms of the market and competition. This business plan will be used to get the attention of investors so you will want to show that the business will be able to make money or grow sufficiently to service the debt. If the investors will be equity partners, then the business plan will have to indicate how the company will be able to secure the investment and produce the desired rate of return.

A third reason business plans are developed is to attract people who aren’t investors. For example, a business plan can be used as a marketing tool when pursuing new customers representing large buyers. It is also used to attract suppliers or exceptional staff. The sections of the plan these people are most interested in needs to be fully developed. For example, large suppliers want to know you will have the right kind and volume of business and that plans for growth equates to supplier success also. Executive talent will read the business plan to discover information about corporate culture and the growth agenda.

In other words, a business plan is not just for attracting investors. It’s for all businesses at any stage of development and is used for multiple purposes.

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Once Upon a Time: Telling a Story in the Business Plan

If you could start a business plan with “once upon a time”, what would follow? Once upon a time there was a business that offered a value proposition to customers. Or maybe you would write that once upon a time there was a business with a compelling story and investors couldn’t wait to read the details.

A business plan is a business document, but it’s also your chance to tell a story. That story is the tale of your business brand and what you offer in the way of products and services that create marketplace passion and excitement. Unfortunately, many business plans present the minimum amount of detailed information as required, but they lack enthusiasm. When the plan is presented to potential investors, you can bet they will notice this lack of excitement too.

Let’s face it – a business plan has to create a sense of fascination in the products and services. The story you have to tell should echo what customers are saying about the marketplace and their problems and how you will solve those problems. It’s a never ending story about what makes your business idea different and your products or services special. The story characters are the management team and the customers. The plot is all about turning authentic passion for products into a value proposition for consumers. What makes your story unique? Interesting? Fascinating? Remarkable?

A dry business plan that meets minimum requires but doesn’t share the entrepreneur’s motivation for starting or growing the business is doomed to enter the annals of boredom. That’s no way to get investors interested and especially innovative angel investors or venture capitalists looking for exciting new ideas. The story should not be invented or fictional. It must be authentic because it’s your story, your business and your products.

Once upon a time there was a successful business…

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Getting Competitive in the Business Plan Competitive Analysis

Every business has competitors which is why the business plan includes a section that presents a thorough competitive analysis. The analysis considers businesses in the same industry your business will be operating in and evaluates similar products or services. It also looks at the features of the competitor businesses. The goal is to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors and then position your business in the industry and marketplace.

A common mistake new entrepreneurs make is telling themselves there is no competition. In the excitement of starting a business, they fall prey to the belief that their products or services are so unique there are no other options for consumers to choose among. One point to keep in mind at all times is every business has competition, and you need to know your competition well.

The competitive analysis in the business plan considers a number of factors for multiple businesses. It’s a good idea to analyze at least 5 businesses to ensure your research is thorough. The factors include product and services prices, the quality level and the product lines.

However, the competitive analysis also considers how your competitors market their products and services and the structure of customer services. The more information you know about a competitor’s organizational structure, sales team, type of facilities, management, and culture, the more effectively you can compete. The analysis should also be done from different perspectives based on market segmentation.

Often, the completed competitive analysis developed for a business plan uncovers opportunities for marketing, product and services differentiation, customer service or new distribution channels. So don’t look at the competitive analysis as a tedious research process. Instead, consider it time well spent learning how to succeed. Every business has competitors and should know who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Then your business can do it differently.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Writing a Business Plan with Employee Taxes in Mind

Writing a business plan isn’t just a matter of writing whatever is on your mind.  It’s a carefully crafted document that considers a number of variables. One of the most important variables is a plan for hiring because salaries and wages and benefits expenses can be a substantial amount of total expenses. A couple of ways to minimize payroll expenses and prove you are a savvy business person is to manage the type of employees hired and methods of expense reimbursements to take advantage of tax credits and savings.

The first step is to research the tax credits that are available. For example, the Affordable Care Act offers small businesses hiring low and moderate income workers a health care tax credit for health insurance expenses as long as the business covers at least half of the single coverage for employees. The business plan can reflect this tax credit so you reflect higher profit.

Another way to lower employee related taxes is to institute an accountable plan. An accountable plan is one in which you reimburse employees for certain expenses and those amounts are exempt from FICA and FUTA taxes. This amount can be sizable if your business plan is written for a company that will have employees incurring regular expenses for travel, entertainment, business tools, supplies and so on. The accountable plan described in IRS Publication 463 requires that all reimbursable expenses be business related, of course. The expenses are not taxable to the employees either.

There are a host of tax credits available for hiring particular types of employees. For example, there are tax credits for hiring veterans or Indians. As you develop a business plan, consider ways to minimize taxes through savings and credits. These amounts will flow right to your bottom line, and just as importantly, potential funders will know you are a wise and savvy business person.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Business Plan Writing When the Economy is Less Than Desirable

Writing a business plan for a new business to secure funding in a weak economy may seem like an impossible task. That’s the wrong attitude to have though because it’s actually quite the opposite. In a weak economy funders are looking for innovative and creative ideas that give them an opportunity to make a profitable investment when other financial vehicles are experiencing low returns.

Investors have trouble making money when the Federal Reserve is keeping the federal funds rate at 0 to one-quarter percent. In fact, the U.S. Central Bank Open Market Committee just reiterated on April 25, 2012 that it’s holding interest rates to near zero levels through the end of next year. That means investors must turn to alternative investments to compensate for lack of opportunity in the traditional financial markets.

Writing a business plan in a less than desirable economy should be viewed as an opportunity rather than an impossible task. As an entrepreneur, you are presenting the opportunity to increase investor cash flow and earnings. The business plan can also prove that a weak economy offers unique competitive conditions that increase the odds of success.

For example, the high unemployment rate means specialized labor is available at affordable wage rates. Another business advantage is the fact many potential competitors have already gone out of business which creates market opportunities. Also, the marketplace is ready for innovation in an economy that demands high performance levels. Your business plan can present strategies that take advantage of these opportunities, and that’s just the kind of thinking that gets the attention of funders.

So don’t think of the weak economy with discouragement. Think of it as opportunity for innovation, and then present those opportunities in your business plan with confidence.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Crowdfunding Facilitated with New Legislation

Smaller investors can now be solicited via the internet to pool resources in a practice called crowdfunding. The recently passed Jumpstart Our Business Startup Act (JOBS Act) sent to President Obama for signing is designed to make it easier for small businesses to raise capital. The main foundation of the legislation rests in giving businesses the ability to raise a limited amount of seed money or growth capital by encouraging investors to visit an SEC registered website where projects are listed.

The SEC registered websites will be used by entrepreneurs to list their businesses and present their funding needs. To drive potential investors to the website, the business will notify family, friends, customers and other individual investors that the business is listed by using social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and other internet based communication systems. The potential investors can visit the website, read about the business idea and then operate as a community to analyze and pick apart the business idea, investment opportunity, business model and so on. Once the business idea is accepted, investment money is sent by individual investors, accumulated and eventually transferred once the funding target is met. There are a number of other requirements, rules and limitations associated with this legislation, and this is only a brief summary of the law.

Legislating crowdfunding is considered by many to be an important step towards making it easier for people to become investors in small businesses. With tight capital markets, this new form of business funding can become an important source of money for startups and small businesses having difficulty accessing traditional funding sources. Professionals who connect businesses with investors can provide more information about the new legislation, and other sources of funding, and provide critical assistance with developing a successful business plan that attracts funding.

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Is Your Elevator Pitch Ready for Investors?

Getting the attention of investors takes finesse and a quality business plan. It also takes an “elevator pitch” that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice. If you haven’t heard of the elevator pitch then there’s a good chance you are a young entrepreneur who has a great business idea but are not immersed in the business lingo. All you know is that you need start up funding.

The elevator pitch is a short speech that summarizes your business plan. When we say short, we mean very short. The elevator pitch is prepared for those moments when you have a chance to tell someone about your business idea and have the time equivalent to a short elevator ride. In other words, the elevator pitch should be no more than a minute long. It’s a summary of the summary of a business plan. You can use it during a conversation or online when potential investors ask you to quickly describe your idea.

It can be intimidating to think about compressing an entire business plan into 200 to 300 words. Yet having a well written elevator pitch ready proves two things. First, you are prepared in advance for an unexpected opportunity to sell your business idea and investors appreciate people who are prepared. Second, having a prepared concise statement about your business shows that your business idea is focused. The elevator pitch is the equivalent of a first impression, and you only get one chance to make it.

The best way to approach developing an elevator pitch for investors is to draw from the information in the Executive Summary in the business plan. The Executive Summary concisely highlights the important information in the business plan. Using it as the source document, you can pick the information that will articulate your message in a way that piques the interest of investors. It’s merely an overview designed to start a conversation between an investor and you. Obviously, you cannot include a lot of detailed information in a minute long description, so you need to pick and choose the most compelling information about your business.

The elevator pitch may be short, but it’s a powerful sales tool whether you speak it, email it, or post it on a website.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Showcase Diversity In Your Business

Some investors aren’t just interested in your business ideas. They also want to know that you embrace diversity. A business can have diverse employees or focus on supplier diversity, or encompass both in the business model. As globalization becomes standard practice for all businesses from the large corporation to the sole proprietor working at home, diversity of people and spend becomes more important.

Why do investors care? They care because the makeup of the population and the marketplace are changing. In the U.S. alone, the highest birth rates are among minorities and every state has increased in racial and ethnic diversity since the year 2000. However, the U.S. is just one segment of the total global marketplace, albeit the largest single entity. As businesses go online to find rapid business growth, they must attract a diverse customer base. It only makes sense that the business would add diversity to its internal operations in order to better compete.

When investors are considering funding a business, they want as much assurance as possible that the internal culture, systems and processes mesh well with the reality of the marketplace. An organization that is committed to diversity and has a definitive strategy for ensuring diversity becomes a reality is one that proves it fully understands the complexity of the global marketplace. In other words, diversity can be leveraged into enduring success, and that is what investors want to fund – a business that is on the path to lasting operational success.

Before approaching investors, it’s important to analyze the diversity of your organization. Awareness, alignment and sustainability of diversity in employees and suppliers are concepts that should be put into practice.

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